Any criticism of George Cukor's My Fair Lady (1964)--a cinematic adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's 1913 Pygmalion--would be incomplete without a discussion of two things: music and Audrey Hepburn. The most important aspect, and the one in which I have the most interest, is the music. Musicals are an acquired taste that a great deal of people have not attained. However, if one is not distracted by a story told through song--if one rejoices in such a story--this musical is a perfect find.
My only problem with this musical is the way that Rex Harrison (Henry Higgins) speaks his way through several of his songs. He seems to have a very lovely singing voice, when he uses it properly. In fact, I would venture to guess that approximately 80% of his songs are spoken. This is extremely distracting because it sounds more like a conversation than a song.
Apart from this minor drawback, the music, composed by Frederick Loewe, is wonderful. As most musicals do, it contains a variety of songs, from slow and character-revealing to silly and fantastic. My favorite song, though, is "Wouldn't It Be Loverly." It is about Eliza's wish to be more than a flower girl--to one day have enough food to eat and clean clothes on her back. Performed by Marni Nixon, who sang most of Audrey Hepburn's songs, this song demonstrates Eliza's daydreaming and is not as important to the story line as some of the other songs. For example, in "I Could Have Danced All Night", we learn that Eliza is beginning to develop feelings for Professor Higgins. Without this song, we may never have known. In that same way, we learn that Henry is starting to become comfortable Eliza in "I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face," another song in which Harrison speaks more than he sings.
All of these songs may be fun to listen to, but they also serve a purpose. They help move the story along, while entertaining the viewer and revealing a bit about the characters in a way that no soliloquy could.